From: Tom Blancato <tblan@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 20 Aug 1996 19:35:09 -0400 (EDT)
Cologne, 20 August 1996
Tom Blancato writes of a "certain polemos which [in SZ] installs itself,
setting up an opposition between the everyday/common sense, etc., and the
authentic, ontologically clarified understanding, etc."
This 'operation' is not polemos, not violence but the realm of
--- As a founding condition of the explicit violence to the every day
sense of things, it appears to constitute such a violence. Why is it not
polemos in precisely the elemental sense of Hericlitos? Indeed, it seems
to me that, like Husserl, Heidegger is working to *reawaken* the
*primordial* by showing *how* it is in fact taking place, so to speak, in
the midst of the everyday, the "eternal present", and that the very
gestures of working to secure thought's happening are themselves part of
the primordial self-wresting of polemos and physis.
The attempt to level the distinction between philosophical thinking and
common sense is one feature of the thought-lessness of our age.
--- Indeed: the attempt to *level* the distinction, to give another sense
to your use of "level" here, that is, the attempt to cast the distinction
*in levels*, seems part of that thoughtlessness as enframing, roughly, and
(as you'll know I am bound to say), polemos.
There seems to be no need to learn to think anymore. Indeed, a call to
think can now be labelled as violence.
--- I am not labelling the call to think as violence. On the contrary,
there is scarcely a call that is more important today, but I think many
things go with that call, which must themselves be given to thought, to
the point where it is not a call to "think" any more, but a call into the
condition of *thoughtaction* and *nonviolence*. In any event, were I to
"label something", it would never be *as violence* (aside from violence
"itself", where it is possible to say this), but as *violent*. You're
misportraying me. I don't think thinking is "essentially" violent. If I
had to call thinking something, I would call it a "neutral good", but I
don't find myself saying that, really. I guess thinking is thinking.
Learning to think transforms common sense, does not deny it (which would
be violence) but leads it to a deeper understanding of itself. There is a
rift between philosophical thinking and common sense but there are bridges
between the two for the few who take the trouble of learning the ways of
--- I'm saying it's not a simple matter of a rift at all, but rather that
this is a polemical enframing of the situation.
Tom speaks of "Dasein", for example, unembarrassedly without acknowledging
that this word is a word of thinking having no meaning at all on the
--- This simply is not true at all. In fact, the *dasein* is rather in
many ways a different starting point *from* "common sense", and is meant
to activate what is operative in the thinking of "here/there" and "being".
And in fact, there are multiple "pre-Heideggerian" (!!) senses of being
which are not at all simply those he notes. "Look at how you're being!"
"Stop being such a dummy!" "Will you be my valentine?" Etc. There,
already, under our noses, and that is *why* Heidegger is at pains to
develop the question of Being, in part, that is, *precisely becuase it
does have meaning*. I guess one way of putting my "question of degrees"
here is *just how "thoughtless" is the pre-ongological thinking of Being
that *is there* and *must be there for the question of Being to be asked
in the first place*? And, even, is the question itself really not asked
outside the specific ontological happening of *Heidegger's Existential
Analytic*? When I put all these kinds of issues together, I am given to
characterize the situation of Heidegger's thoughtaction as a certain
polemos, installation, and a violence (potential, actual) *insofar* as it
mischaracterizes, misportrayes, in how it *sets the scene for its
progression*, in what it truncates, etc., but I am nowhere dismissing much
of Heidegger, any more than I would suggest that a dominance of ossology
(study of bones?) should therefore be countered by burning ossology books
(nor, of course, actually removing people's skeletons!) I am suggesting
that the *Being* Heidegger and we ourselves question is already, in the
first instance, *shot through* with the issue of nonviolence in so
primordial a fashion that it is itself not only constitutive for *being*
but also has, *therefore*, a constitutive role in the hermeneutic
*issuance of the question*. Now, you can disagree with me here all you
want, but if you want to say that there is no thinking going on what I'm
saying/doing here, no decent engagement with Heidegger, etc., then for the
time being, with all due respect, and pending new learning on my part,
etc., I'll be forced to view your take on me here as irresponsible (albeit
not in a terribly serious sense!!!)
(N.B. "Dasein" is not a synonym for "human being" but makes sense -
leaving aside older philosophical usages in Hegel and Kant, e.g. which
have nothing to do with H.'s use of the term - for a thinking open to the
question of being.)
--- You are still looking for the usual target?: I have not made this
anthropological move, have never, so far as I know, in this thinking, said
"human being" or implied it in its anthropological operation. If I have, I
stand happily corrected. There is a serious problem with saying "human
being", and I don't generally do it at all. Or you are perhaps simply
clarifying the sense and historical background for "Dasein". Frankly, when
dealing in English, I think it might be better to say: there-being,
being-there, being-somewhere, etc.
"Set up in SZ is a distinction between the everyday -- a certain proximal
availability to Dasein which has the characteristics of arbitrariness,
"lowness" and a being-leveled-over of import, value, worth, ontological
purchase, a mereness and chaotic nature, a lostness, etc. -- and the
authentic care of Dasein as guilty-indebted being-towards-death in,
through, or over and above the factical Situation. Tom continues: "But
this characterization is patently, or demonstrably and phenomenally,
false. What is available even to (supposedly or actually) unreflective
Dasein is not proximally and for the most part mere chaos, nor "physical
things", though no doubt many a philosopher has had the tendency to take
things this way. (More below.) While this polemical gesture accomplishes
itself somewhat freely in certain stages of Heidegger's progression, it
must be noted that it does not occur as freely in other stages. For
example, when anticipatorily resolute Dasein understands itself according
to its own Death, the factical Situation gives Dasein *potentialities for
Being*, which must be assumed here to arise out of the "everyday" in a
somewhat wholistic manner and which include that which takes place in the
"mid-zone". But this wholism, which stands in contrast to the
polemos/division in question, only aggravates the problem."
The distinction between authenticity and inauthenticity in SZ can well be
criticized as misleading, but it is not a "polemical gesture" on the part
of Heidegger, nor does it have any culture-critical import.
--- Is too. :)
The everyday (but not only the everyday) is oblivious to being.
--- Perhaps, but what counts as "everyday"? I'm suggesting not that the
category of the everyday is wrong, and I was at pains to clarify this, but
that that which is *taken* as everyday may in fact not be so "everyday",
nor so oblivious, at all.
Metaphysics is also oblivious to being. This oblivion to being is the sole
raison d'etre of Heidegger's thinking which, as I cited in my last post,
is an awe- some appropriation of the past by ruthlessly destroying the
--- Pitiless, relentless, maybe; ruthless, I wouldn't say that. And as for
the "soleness" of this reason for being, I think it only brings us right
back into the situation of the question of Being: As a reason, it itself
is already rich with reasons, with meaning, issue, import, importance,
relevances, etc. I.e., *why* is it the raison d'etre? (And there are good
reasons, I think.)
Tom presents arguments against "death" as a master organizing principle in
SZ, but Heidegger speaks of "Sein-zum-Tode" (being-unto-death), not Tod
--- Good point. And I think this is the sense I mean. Death as such is not
the principle, but on the other hand, *there is no death* where there is
not being- unto-death, and it is only in that *comportment* (which is not
as a comportment therefore simply a mere ontical comportment) that Death
can operate as an organizing principle, or otherwise than an "organizing
principle". Generally, my characterization has really fallen short of your
criticism in this regard, I think, though I could well have been more
careful to be clear on this at certain points. You don't appear to be
reading me responsibly. Not that you have to, or that what I have to say
is worth it!
It is Dasein's mortality and learning-to-be-mortal that H. places at the
centre of authenticity.
--- Too much at the center, I think.
This is far broader than a concern with death and dying.
--- I'm aware of this and don't think I've really given indications
So Tom's interpretation is basically flawed, as far as I can see. And it
must be taken into account that Sein-zum-Tode signals an _openness_ of
Dasein to its own mortality: Dasein is open to dying AS dying.
--- Indeed. On the other hand, I've noted that a problem lies in that what
takes place might not be simply an "openness", and rather that "openess"
as such seems to be "pushed down" to the openness to the current factical
situation, whereas the "anticipatorily resolute" Dasein might, in the
Heideggerian setting, be of a *truncated* range of "managings", in a more
willful and equipped and "in-gear" sense, of the Question.
But, as I noted in previous posts, the AS, the ontological difference, the
openness to the being of beings and to being as such do not play any role
in Tom's thinking.
My impression of the many posts Tom has written in the past weeks is that
the Q of V, the issue of "nonviolence", etc. are as oblivious to being as
the rest of metaphysics. This recent long post on death treats it like an
ontic event without any sensibility toward mortality being a mode of
being, i.e. an openness to being.
--- Well here you make a characterization, but I don't see the support for
it. I think I *have* not only worked to preserve the understanding of
mortality, but have in a certain way identified a danger, or a series of
dangers, *to authentic mortality*, and to this openness, precisely in
Heidegger. Also, since I have noted nonviolence to be the *opening of
opening itself*, it would appear to me that, whether or not this opening
of opening itself is *nonviolence*, I have in fact focused on a crucial
There is humility in this openness, not the "Olympian going for gold"
that Tom polemicizes against.
--- Is anti-polemos simply polemos? Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't.
In SZ there is no suggestion that the everyday is "mere idling chaos". On
the contrary: everyday life is an orderly taking care of matters.
--- Well, when you get into it, the suggestion is indeed as I've
--- "What if resoluteness, in accordance with its own meaning, should
bring itself into its authenticity only when it projects itself not upon
*any random possibilities* which *just lie closest*, but uopn that
uttermost possibility which lies ahead of every factical
potentiality-for-Being." (SZ, 302) He goes *right from the one to the
--- Commonsense in its irresolutness is characterized as a "lostness" (but
is it?), a "dominant indefiniteness", mere "incidentals" appropriated by
curiosity, "traquillized obviousness" (311), "concerned only with those
entities which can be surveyed at a glance circumspectively" (315),
threatening to take Dasein as "mode of presence at hand, even a mode that
is *wholly undifferentiated*" (323, my emphasis), a (prideful?) concern
with "worldly prestige and potentialities" (307), etc. In the last case,
there are "worldly prestige and potentialities" (in our prideful hubris)
as opposed to "mere idling, undifferentiated, arbitrary chaos", but
Heidegger appears to be saying, "let's take this stuff as are mere
arrogance, let us find something bigger and stronger than us." Dasein
in-the-world is nothing but pure desire and hubris, or mechanism, in
Heidegger's characterization. *These things, aside from their
overextension, are there and are valid phenomena*, I fully agree, but I
have suggested that *their application*/installation, etc., can be violent
if they *take* something *for* these categories when, in fact, they are
*not* "inauthentic", etc. My conclusion is simply that when considered
along the lines I've laid out, these have *profound consequences* for how
being-toward-death happens. I think I am affirming the Levinassian sense
of the "height of the Other" along the way, something, ostensibly, no
self-interested Dasein could ever recognize. Not only that, but in fact, I
am suggesting, everyday life is not, and perhaps is never really simply an
"orderly taking care of matters" at all, though I in fact accept the
category of "everydayness" as a kind of interpretive orient point.
At another point Tom writes:
"While Heidegger is *not* taking Dasein as a thing *present at hand*, he
is taking Dasein as a confluence of self-gathered *existentialia* whose
constituents are not adequately displayed and thought through in terms of
their ontological function."
Heidegger himself was well aware of defects in SZ. But he had a clear view
of the question he was asking and elaborated modes of being of Dasein to
an astounding depth and with amazing subtlety whereas Tom here sounds to
me like an upstart.
--- Well, there you are.
I have yet to see Tom show a single connection between the Q of V and the
question of being.
--- And maybe a *single* connection will not be forthcoming. But I think
many connections are there and have been made. I guess I can only do my
best to either learn how to show them better, clarify them and understand
them better, or else realize the error of my own questioning here.
Nor do I think his writing moves at all with a sensibility toward the
issue of being, the turning, the step back, the event, nor even with a
sensibility toward the issue of metaphysics: the being of beings. On the
contrary, the fixation on violence and non-violence (particular phenomena)
allow him to ride roughshod over the question of being, leaving it on the
sidelines as a book with seven seals.
--- What's a "book with seven seals?" Well, I think I've been doing a bit
more than that. Generally, you appear to be characterizing in a prolonged
way without much close interaction with my posts. They have been long at
times, I agree, and for this I apologize, but I think there has been
enough in them to falsify this chracterizaton. For example, vis a vis the
"step back", perhaps I might be thinking on the order of a "stepping in",
or, on the other hand, questioning the grounding of the "step" in its
At the very least, one would have to learn and be prepared to learn from
Heidegger's own deep, ruthless appropriation of the metaphysical
tradition, starting with the Greeks.
--- Frankly, I don't even think *Heidegger* would like this
characterization of "ruthlessness". Also, here your dismissal of me, and
its assumptions, etc. appears to be simply too extreme.
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